Peonies are one of the most beautiful and fragrant flowers that gardeners love. Their lush early summer buds are the very embodiment of elegance and beauty. If you are considering starting peony growing in your garden, here are some practical tips to get you started.
Be patient - it's worth it
Peony is a perennial plant that can produce up to 50 flowers per year. However, young plants need time to develop and gain strength. The peony root system is somewhat different from other perennials. Peonies have two types of roots. Thin, fibrous, which absorb water and nutrients, and tuberous roots are as thick as your finger and are very fragile. Thick - this is actually underground stems with "eyes" that sprout new shoots. Peonies are usually propagated in the fall. The process involves cutting knotted roots into pieces that contain one or more "eyes." In the spring, the eyes "swell up", turn red and eventually grow into stalks. A newly planted peony usually goes through at least two vegetation periods, developing a strong root system. During this period, the plant may or may not give flowers. But once a flower has a good root, you will get more flowers every year.
Do not plant roots too deep.
Since some peony roots are actually underground stems, it is important not to plant them too deep. There should be no more than 4 cm of soil covering the uppermost roots. If they are planted deeper, you will get a strong plant, but very few flowers. During the first growing season, the soil will gradually settle around new roots. Sometimes this leads to the fact that the roots go deeper into the ground than expected. If this happens, carefully raise the roots so that they are at the correct level. If you decide to mulch this area, keep the root zone just below the plant bare.
Achieve good air circulation
Peonies are quite resistant to various “enemies”, however, there is one disease to which they are extremely susceptible - this is botrytis, also known as gray mold. This fungal disease rarely kills, but it can disfigure foliage, reduce the number of flowers, and gradually weaken the plant. Signs of botrytis include blackened buds that do not open, black spots on the leaves and young shoots that rot at ground level. Over time, these blackened patches soften and become covered with gray mold. Botrytis, unfortunately, is quite common, especially in cool and wet weather. But on infected plants, at first, no signs of gray mold can be seen. Prevention is the best way to avoid problems. Always plant peonies in the sun and make sure that they are not overloaded with neighboring shrubs or perennials. Many years ago, gardeners often planted peonies in a row to create a free-standing hedge. This is a smart move that satisfies the need of pions for good air circulation. If possible, avoid landing pions near a building or fence.
Cut flowers at the right time.
Once your peonies are ripe, you can prune as many stalks as you like. But for the first few years it is best to cut only a couple of stems and allow the plants to keep as much foliage as possible. This will give them the maximum amount of energy to build up the root system. When the plants stop blooming, use sharp scissors or pruning shears to remove the flowers. Try to do this before the seed boxes form.
The buds of peonies are a bit heavy for their stems, especially when it rains. Providing additional support will help preserve your flowers. One option is the so-called peony ring made of metal. Reinforced wire cage provides excellent support, and rusty wire quickly disappears under the foliage. Wooden or steel stakes are another option. Place a stake on each plant and then use twine to weave the backing net. You can also make an attractive and very effective support from bamboo or woven branches.
What about ants?
Peony buds secrete a sweet substance that attracts ants. Ants do not harm peonies, nor do they have any influence on the formation of buds. If you cut flowers to bring into the house and want to make sure that you do not bring ants, you can either shake the flowers upside down or dip them in a bucket of water.